Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published June 16th 2020
I want to be forever young
I was asked for a copy of a song by a friend to use for one of his online video things. The song he asked for was 'Forever Young'; apparently he's doing something about his grandparents or his partner's grandparents. Doesn't matter. Logically, I asked him which version he wanted. I told him I had a few that sounded similar, one that was really slowed down, a dance version, a rock version…
"Ha!" he said (we were talking on the phone). "You should do one of your columns on the song!"
You know what? He's right!
So, what is the song? It is a sad song about trying to maintain one's youth in the face of aging, and in the face of an uncertain world. Some like to think of it as a song of hope, but the lyrics are really a bit of a downer. And yet it is written in such a way that there feels like there has to be an element of hope in it. It is a strikingly well-written track.
The song was originally recorded by German pop group Alphaville in 1984, whose members also wrote it. It is a synth-pop tune of the style popular at the time (think a-ha or Nick Kershaw), and was a minor hit around the place. And, like so many originals, still one of the best versions. So, to start, here is the original:
Then, in 1985, Laura Branigan recorded it for the album Hold Me (which is on the list for a classic album review). She then went on to sing it as either the encore or the final track of her live performances for years.
Truth be told, and this I understand is an unpopular opinion, but Branigan's version is, to me, the very best. I love her voice, including its imperfections and wavering, and I just adore her rendering of this song. Of course, your mileage may vary, but I love her recording of this. Taken from us too soon.
Let's jump ahead to 1989 and Wayne Wonder who released a strange electro-reggae version. Yes, you read that right. So, strange, but in a good way!
Leaping to 1994 and Interactive with a Euro-pop dance version. I bought this for the aerobics classes I was doing from 93 to 95, but I'm not sure I ever actually used it in class. It still gets used when I'm at the gym. Yes, I own it, so… yeah.
1999 now, and Stoned with a punk version… well, as punk as they could make the song. It really seems hard to sing it fast. No, I am not going crazy. They manage to pull it off as well, I reckon!
2001 and we come to the a cappella version. Yes, regular readers knew there had to be an a cappella version here! This is by InsideOut A Cappella, which I found about ten years ago when I was really getting into this style of music. Like Pentatonix, they use beat-boxing as well as the singing. This song lends itself so well to this form of music.
2006 and we have the last time this song bothered the charts, done by Australian band Youth Group. They had this one hit, a few minor songs and then… I'm not sure. Look, I'm not a huge fan of this version, but it is one that many know because it kept being used on TV (commercials, shows, promos, etc.), so I included it. I had a friend years ago who said this was her favourite version, so it must have struck a chord with some people.
Staying in 2006 and let's go to the "Masters of Chant"! The group capped Gregorian combine Gregorian chanting with modern instrumentation. Sort of like Enigma did in the 90s. This song works well as a monks' chant. Not that that's so surprising.
2007, and Tiffany. Yes, that Tiffany, from the 80s, the one I liked as a kid. This piano-led version really showcases her voice and is a pretty impressive piece of music. I got this on a mix-tape from a mate. I should really check out some more of her more recent stuff.
2010 and it's time for Tangerine Dream! Those who know a bit about their 60s/70s know of this strange German band that hovered on the edge of prog rock and made various incursions outside of their own homeland. This is a pretty straight-forward version, but I couldn't resist putting these guys here.
2011 and we hit another of my teenage years' pin-ups – Kim Wilde. You know, the pop stars of the 80s were dismissed as light-weight, but she's singing this without autotune, which I have a feeling very few modern "singers" would struggle with. I like this one. And so did my mate – I think this is the one he ended up choosing for his video.
2016, and let's slow it right down with this rather haunting rendition by Holly Henry. Really slow it down, with a bit of an Imogen Heap vibe going on. Stunning, really.
And that's 12 versions of the song. That's probably enough. We've covered a lot of years – 32! – with this song, and there are still heaps of others I didn't include (at least 3 more I own!). Are there any other versions of 'Forever Young' I missed that you really like? Let me know below.